1916 court: Man disrupts fishing trawler’s important duty

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A case of considerable interest in local fishing circles came before the Mayor (Mr CC Graham), Alderman Ascough, and Messrs J Sinfield and AJ Tugwell, at the Borough Police Court.

It was that in which William Ramsey, second engineer, was summoned for failing to join the local fishing trawler, Otterhound, on 11 August.

Asked if he admitted the charge, defendant said: I was sick and couldn’t go to sea as I had a scalded foot.”

Mr J Whitfield, solicitor, prosecuted on behalf of Mr Neville B Clarke, the owner of the Otterhound.

Relating the facts Mr Whitfield said the circumstances were that this man was engaged as second engineer on the steam trawler Otterhound. The boat arrived in Scarborough harbour on Friday last about seven or eight in the morning. The defendant was instructed, along with other members of the crew, to be on board again about 2 o’clock the same afternoon to proceed to sea in the usual way. About midday the defendant called at the office of the owner for his wages. He then saw Charles Oxley, the salesman for Mr Clarke, whom he told he had a bit of a “gammy” foot and that he was ordered for two o’clock. Mr Clarke noticed that his boot was unfastened at the front and that there was some rag inside. Mr Oxley asked him if he was alright to go to sea, and he replied in the affirmative. Mr Oxley said: “We need not get anyone in your place then?” Defendant said, “No,” and that he would be there (meaning on board the vessel). “In fact,” he said, “the chief won’t go to sea without me.” So that, continued Mr Whitfield, he did not consider the injury to his foot so serious as to cause him to remain ashore. Oxley walked to the end of the West Pier, and he would tell the magistrates that the defendant was walking quite normally and seemed to be suffering no effects from this accident which he had had. The defendant duly joined the boat at two o’clock as he had been instructed, but when on board he was given a certain order which he refused to fulfil. It was somebody else’s work according to him, and he immediately jumped ashore, and it appeared another man, a trimmer, went with him. This was duly reported to the owner, Mr Clarke, who went at 4.30pm to the Golden Ball where he saw the defendant and the trimmer. He asked them how it was they were not on board, and they then said they had no orders. Mr Clarke, however, told them he had only just left the skipper, who said he ordered the crew for 2.15pm. Mr Clarke said, “As owner of the boat, come with me.” And he threatened proceedings. The trimmer said he would go, but the defendant, Ramsey, refused. He was the worse for drink.

He made no statement at all at that time about his foot. As a result of the defendant refusing to go to sea, instead of the Otterhound being able to leave Scarborough on Friday afternoon, it was kept here until the Monday, a new substitute having then been found.

These proceedings, continued Mr Whitfield, were not taken in a vindictive spirit against the defendant himself by Mr Clarke. It was a matter of importance to the owners of fishing boats and also to the general public that fishing boats which contributed to the food supply of the country should not be delayed in this manner, but that they should be kept working and fish supplied and maintained at the highest possible output. He might say the penalty for this offence was not a high one. The only penalty they did ask for was one not exceeding two days of the defendant’s wages. He got 8s a day - 56s per week - and in addition to that he received his food. Therefore he would receive 9s 6d per day at the least.

Evidence bearing out the points contained in the above statement was given by Charles Oxley, 25, Franklin Street, who said he was a fish salesman and assisted in the management of the Otterhound. Defendant gave him (witness) distinctly to understand that he would go to sea, and added “the chief would not go without me”.

Neville S Clarke, owner of the Otterhound, also gave evidence, and gave figures to show how he had suffered financially by the Otterhound not being able to put to sea on account of defendant’s refusal to go with her.

Defendant said he was ill at sea for four days. His foot was scalded by a pan tumbling over at home and not at sea.

The Mayor said they found the charge against the defendant proved. It was a very serious thing that by this off-hand conduct of the defendant’s the owners had been put to such inconvenience and loss. He would be fined two days’ pay 16s, and the costs.